Might As Well Jump

I spent most of my formative years in Chicago, where the local NFL team was more or less revered year round, regardless of how good or bad they were. When I arrived in these parts some years ago, I noted that area pigskin followers (read: Redskins fans) were a completely different lot. From my dealings with them and from hearing the incessant bleatings of the neighborhood sports radio guys, I found that the ’Skins were only as good as their last game.

This season has only reinforced that notion. If you drove around the city after the Week 2 loss to the Cowboys, building ledges were cluttered with hopeless Redskins fans ready to end their pain with one leap to the pavement below. Two weeks (and two wins) later, the playoffs are again a foregone conclusion.

That sort of mentality seems to have seeped into the collective subconscious of Caps Fan. One loss, on opening night, to a much more experienced and talented team, a team that likely improved itself over the summer, a team that outpointed Washington by 30 in the standings last season, and in a game played in front of an amped-up, hostile and sellout crowd, has some ready to write off the season as a hopeless and total loss before the first home game.

(One more thing about the MSG crowd. Some of these people are not so bright; a few sandwiches short of a picnic. After New York’s Marcel Hossa incurred a slashing minor late in the second period, one of the gallery gods behind me kept yelling, “Dive. It was a dive. He dived.” I never have seen a dive called on a slashing minor. It got me thinking. Could a ref whistle a guy for diving on a slash if the slashee were to grimace in pain, shake his hand animatedly and say “Owwww-eeee,” when said ref did not believe that the degree and ferocity of said slash warranted that degree of a grimace?)

One loss, by three goals (including an empty-netter) and already come the howls of “[Insert name of favorite Capitals whipping boy(s) here] sucks!” Bench him/them, trade him/them, move him/them to a different line/pairing. And worse. Alex Ovechkin is on pace for a pointless season with a minus-328 defensive rating. Let’s bench him to teach him a lesson. Or ship him to Hershey to wake him up.

I’m not a big fan of evaluating a guy’s worth as a hockey player on the basis of one game, but the internet has made an art form of that sort of thing. Message boards vilify and deify, sometimes simultaneously. People “watch” hockey games while typing rants; such gifted multi-taskers would surely be able to simultaneously keep the puck in at the blueline and take a hit better than the guy whose performance they’re assailing at their keyboard, right?

Funny too, that the keyboard is the only place where the assailing occurs. The next guy I see go up to an NHL player, shake his hand and say, “Man, you sure do suck,” will be the first. Keyboard courage.

Baseball has something called a perfect game, but there is no such animal in hockey. As the brilliant Matt Groening succinctly put it many years ago in his “Life in Hell” comic strip: “Mistakes were made.”

Yes they were, and they will be. Every night, tomorrow included. Hockey is a game of mistakes. The Caps made some on Thursday. Two of the game’s top 16 scorers of all time capitalized on them for three of the four goals (excluding the empty-netter) against.

In this context, the rush to panic over the Redskins fortunes or lack thereof makes more sense. The NFL season is only 16 games in length. There is a far greater sense of urgency to get things headed in a northerly direction. The NHL season is five times longer. I’d also note that expectations are much higher for the Redskins than the Caps when it comes to the current campaigns for both teams, but your mileage may vary.

Me, I’d rather wait five or 10 games before jumping in front of a Greyhound. But if you’d prefer to avoid the rush or believe the line will be longer then, suit yourself.

I watched a pretty good Rangers team and crowd get all frothed up and fired up by a stellar game operations production, and saw that team and that crowd get further frothed and fired by a nearly instant goal, just 29 seconds into the proceedings.

Ex-Cap and new Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr netted that goal, which made it a bit like a spray of Bactine in the eyes. And it came off a Brian Pothier turnover, 29 seconds into his Capitals career, even though the Caps’ defenseman’s intentions were good.

“We got it on the wall and we made the right play to keep it on the wall,” assessed bench boss Glen Hanlon. “They just picked it off and bang, it was in our net.”

That was the story of the night. The Caps made mistakes (turnovers), and the Rangers made them pay. That’s what Jagr and Brendan Shanahan have been doing for the better part of two decades now.

“The guys that they wanted to have the puck at the right time had it,” said Hanlon. “It couldn’t have worked out any better for them. It was a perfect start. There was lots of enthusiasm and Jagr scores a goal the first shift.”

I understand the frustration. We’re just as guilty of it upstairs, too. After Jagr’s goal, I braced myself for the impending Capitals collapse, fearing that a young team opening on the road for the first time in seven years would have every reason to fold like an accordion. But the Caps bucked up. They played well enough for the rest of the first.

New York came out even stronger and with more jump and determination in the second. Goaltender Olie Kolzig kept it close while the Washington defense struggled to find its footing. Alexander Semin tied the game. Alas, then came more mistakes (turnovers), and more Rangers goals as a result. All four New York goals came as a direct result of turnovers.

“We made a couple bad turnovers that cost us goals,” admitted defenseman Jamie Heward. “Turnovers and penalties will hurt you. We tried to cut down on all the penalties and tonight it was turnovers. We’ll rectify the situation. We know we’re not a team that does that. Tonight was just one of those things. We’ll put it behind us and limit our turnovers against another good hockey team.”

I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. It’s one game. If they’re 0-11 at the end of October, I’ll be in the Greyhound line, too.

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4 Comments on “Might As Well Jump”

  1. strungout Says:

    Drink the Kool Aid!! Drink it!

    I think they’ll be fine once they get through these injuries and get an actual line up together. The patch work line up with 7 D on the bench isnt a good way to start the season.

    Muir however…well…that Greyhound to Hershey is looking pretty good.

  2. Absaraka Says:

    Well put!

    Every team in hockey has a bad night here and there. One of our Bad Nights just happened to come in one of the most hostile arenas in sports, on Opening Night. That doesn’t mean the season is anywhere CLOSE to finished. We have 81 hockey games left to play over the course of nearly six months. It is WAY too early to call it done.

    If I may make a poker comparison? In poker, they say you can always win as long as you have a chip and a chair. OK, so we just lost one bad pot on the very first hand. Doesn’t matter: it’s still early, and we’ve got enough time to win back some of those chips. I myself play recreational poker, and there have been times when I’ve seen players get down to the tiniest of stacks, only to come back strong and win the whole thing.

    Don’t bury your own team yet, Caps faithful. There’s still lots of hockey left to be played.

    I’m slightly disgusted by all of this instant doom-and-gloom, in fact. They’re still playing BASEBALL, for crying out loud! (Yeah, playoffs, but STILL!) We’ve still got green leaves on the trees here in DC! It’s not even Halloween yet! Do people really think one bad night at the office for the Caps means the season’s over before the home opener?! I can’t be the only Caps fan who finds that attitude patently offensive.

  3. Matt, Ohio Says:

    Now that Ovie has scored and everyone is feeling fine…can we please discuss a more important topic! Where is Ovie’s mirrored visor!!!!! He needs it.

  4. shelly Says:

    i love that house too!

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